Decision #23/00 - Type: Workers Compensation
An Appeal Panel review was held on March 3, 2000, at the request of a union representative, acting on behalf of the claimant.
Whether or not the claim is acceptable.
That the claim is not acceptable.
On February 8, 1999, the claimant was talking to a co-worker in a seated position and when he bent over to tie his shoe lace he felt a "pop" on the left side of his back. When he straightened up he also felt pain on the left side of his back down to the left knee. The initial diagnosis by the attending physician was a low back strain with right sciatica. X-rays of the lumbosacral spine dated September 30, 1997, revealed degenerative disc disease at L5-S1.
Initial file information showed the Workers Compensation Board (WCB) accepted the claim and the claimant was paid two weeks of time loss benefits. On March 30, 1999, the decision was rescinded by the WCB as it was established that the injury was the result of a personal action and was not related to any specific employment activities.
On April 1, 1999, the claimant wrote to the WCB with additional information as to what occurred on February 8, 1999. The claimant indicated that he helped a co-worker lift 10 to 15 boxes, weighing 30 pounds each, from a pallet onto two work benches and then back onto the pallet. This took approximately 45 to 50 minutes. The claimant said that after they were finished, he and his co-worker sat down for coffee to discuss what other priorities they had for the rest of the day. That was when he noticed his shoe lace was untied. On April 23, 1999, Claims Services advised the claimant that the additional information did not change its previous decision. The case then referred to Review Office for consideration.
On May 28, 1999, Review Office confirmed that the claim was not acceptable for a personal injury arising out of and in the course of the worker's employment. Review Office considered the facts of the case and the additional information submitted by the claimant. The specific action of tying the shoelace was the precipitating event that led to the injury and diagnosis of a low back strain for which the worker received medical treatment and experienced time loss. Review Office stated that it was this action which did not arise out of and in the course of the worker's employment activities and that the legislative requirements for acceptance of the claim had not been met. On December 29, 1999, a union representative appealed Review Office's decision and a non-oral file review was arranged.
The issue in this appeal is whether or not the claim is acceptable. The eligibility of federal government employees for compensation benefits is governed by the Government Employees Compensation Act (GECA) and the Government Employees Compensation Regulations (GECR) which are administered by agreement in Manitoba by the Workers Compensation Board (WCB). The relevant sections of GECA are Section 2 and 4(1). Section 2 indicates in part:
- "accident" includes a wilful and intentional act, not being the act of the employee, and a fortuitous event occasioned by a physical or natural cause;
"compensation" includes medical and hospital expenses and any other benefits, expenses or allowances that are authorized by the law of the province where the employee is usually employed respecting compensation for workmen and the dependents of deceased workmen;"
Subsection 4(1) states in part:
- Subject to the Act, compensation shall be paid to
- an employee who
- is caused personal injury by an accident arising out of and in the course of his employment, or
- is disabled by reason of an industrial disease due to the nature of the employment;
Relevant WCB policy is Section 44.05.10 which clarifies the definition of accident for GECA claims and Section 44.05 which clarifies "Arising Out of and in the Course of Employment."
WCB Policy, Section 44.05 states in part:
- "While workers are on the employer's premises, they are subject to all the environmental hazards associated with the employment and are entitled to compensation for accidents arising out of the employer's premises.
Accidents arising out of purely personal sources over which the employer has no control are generally not compensable. Even if an accident occurs in the course of employment, where a worker is engaged in personal activities not related to or required by his/her employment the resultant injury would not be compensable. However, if the obligations or conditions of that employment contribute substantially to an accident or aggravate a situation, then any resultant injury may be compensable."
The claimant, a supervisor of general stores, has appealed on the basis that he sustained personal injury by accident arising out of and in the course of his employment on February 8, 1999 in the form of a low back injury. The evidence reveals that the claimant had arrived at work at approximately 0655 am for a 0700am start time and had been unpacking boxes with another party at work for approximately 45 to 50 minutes. Following this, the claimant indicated that he and the other party got coffee and sat down to discuss "other priorities we have for the remainder of the day." While seated and at approximately 0800am the claimant noticed his left shoelace was loose, bent down to tie the lace and while pulling on the lace felt pain in his lower back.
We find that the specific precipitating event that led to the injury was tying the shoelace. We note from the Worker's Report of Injury dated February 26, 1999 that the claimant indicates; " Was seated talking to Mr. [the other party] when I noticed my shoes (sic) on my left foot was loose ."
We are of the opinion that in the circumstances of this case the act of tying the shoelace while sitting was a personal action which was not incidental to the claimant's employment duties. Although the claimant's condition occurred in the course of his employment in that he was at work, it is our view based on the evidence, on a balance of probabilities, that the injury did not arise out of the employment.
In our view the obligations or conditions of the claimant's employment did not contribute substantially to the accident or aggravate a situation and that the activity was insufficiently tied to the employment to be compensable. Therefore we find that the provisions of GECA and the Workers Compensation Act have not been met and find the claim is not compensable. The claimant's appeal is therefore denied.
D.A. Vivian, Presiding Officer
A. Finkel, Commissioner
R. Frisken, Commissioner
Recording Secretary, B. Miller
D.A. Vivian - Presiding Officer
(on behalf of the panel)
Signed at Winnipeg this 7th day of March, 2000